Over the entire offseason, there was plenty of positivity directed toward Rhamondre Stevenson and the New England Patriots backfield. Stevenson came off a spectacular season in 2022 where he emerged out of nowhere and finished with 14 fantasy points per game, good for 10th among running backs.
The Patriots went through the early part of the offseason with no additions to the backfield and did not select a running back in the draft. Rhamondre Steven-SZN had arrived, with the hype reaching a fever pitch until a fateful day in August when the team signed Ezekiel Elliott. How should we approach this backfield in fantasy football?
Let’s closely observe the two players to determine what action we should take!
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2023 Fantasy Outlook for Rhamondre Stevenson
I mentioned this earlier, but Stevenson was a top-15 RB in the NFL and a consistent producer for fantasy teams week after week. Bill Belichick is notorious for using multiple running backs for different roles and in different schemes. Stevenson, however, was heavily involved in all aspects of the offense.
Last year, he was the team’s leading rusher and had over 100 more carries than the team’s No. 2 running back, Damien Harris. But the key that boosted his point scoring the most? His pass-catching skills. Stevenson caught 69 passes, catching more passes than anyone else on the team!
With Bill O’Brien coming to town, we should expect Stevenson to continue to see work both as a runner and as a receiver. The offense should progress back to the norm and score more points compared to last season’s struggles.
Given his involvement in the offense, it’s easy to envision an RB1, high-end RB2 season in store for Stevenson.
2023 Fantasy Outlook for Ezekiel Elliott
Zeke had left the Cowboys organization without a new contract, and it appeared that he would be heading into the 2023 season as a free agent. Then, the Patriots came calling.
Elliott will provide New England with some much-needed depth. Outside of Stevenson, the Patriots only have veteran Ty Montgomery and second-year back Kevin Harris. Soon after Elliott was signed in New England, the Patriots traded their other second-year RB Pierre Strong Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.
Harris is still unproven, and Montgomery hasn’t had any meaningful work since he was a Green Bay Packer. Zeke clearly had lost a step last season, and his best seasons are behind him, but he brings a special skill as a power back with an ability to run inside and succeed in goal-to-go or short down-and-distance scenarios.
Elliott will take work from Stevenson, but can it be enough to consider avoiding Stevenson altogether?
In 2016, we witnessed Belichick stubbornly use LeGarrette Blount over and over at the goal line. Blount ended the year with 18 (yes, 18) rushing touchdowns. We could very well see a season like that for Elliott in 2023.
Who Should I Draft in 2023?
Firstly, we need context! Taking Stevenson does mean taking him in the late second or early third round. That’s a considerable cost compared to Zeke’s ADP near the end of the 10th round.
Stevenson will have the passing game covered, as he was the primary receiver over the course of the season in 2022. Elliott has seen his reception numbers drop year after year starting from his third season in the NFL.
If you’re able to take Stevenson in the early third round, he’s a must-draft talent at that spot. He’s going to continue to get rushing attempts, the offense is projected to show some sort of improvement from last season, and we all know that in PPR leagues, running backs who catch passes can be invaluable for your team.
I tend to spend my early-round selections on receivers or tight ends rather than running backs, but there’s much more value in Stevenson compared to Elliott for 2023. Elliott could have spike weeks as a goal-line back, but Stevenson’s upside is much higher.
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